SysAdmins: Unsung heroes of the IT world

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SysAdmin Day is celebrated annually on 29th July to show appreciation and recognition for those who keep our businesses up and running – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Although their crucial work is essential for business continuity and survival, whilst everything is running smoothly, SysAdmins are often overlooked and underappreciated.

As Mike Gosling, IT Service Platforms Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems, emphasises, “whilst SysAdmins are respected within the IT profession, many people do not understand the scope and complexity of their role. High quality IT services are often taken for granted, with the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ proving indicative. Indeed, organisations have a tendency to recognise customer-facing staff more than roles like the SysAdmin, which keep systems running behind the scenes.”

This SysAdmin Day, Top Business Tech spoke to nine IT industry experts to learn more about the important job of these unsung heroes and how our appreciation of them can be shown.

You have to understand to appreciate

The core reason that most people overlook the importance of SysAdmins is simply because they do not understand what their role entails. Donnie MacColl, Senior Director of Technical Support at HelpSystems, describes them as “the mystical, invisible magicians that are always there to keep your IT systems running without a hiccup. Without them, a host of vital, day-to-day tasks would simply not happen, including: till transactions… printing any and all documents… recovering or resetting forgotten passwords… starting a new job with a laptop, username and password ready to go… And the list goes on! Nowadays, almost everything you depend on is touched in some way by your SysAdmins.”

Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK, adds: “SysAdmins are the backbone of the organization. These professionals maintain, upgrade, and troubleshoot office systems, internal networks, firewalls, and routers, to guarantee reliability and quality for end-users. Without their hard work, businesses would quite literally fall to their knees.

“At Leaseweb Global, we know the invaluable work SysAdmins do for our organisation. In fact, for two weeks each month, every SysAdmin is available on 24-hour call. No matter the day or time, when an issue arises at Leaseweb Global, a skilled SysAdmin is quickly available to deal with it.”

Although critical in every business, Gregg Mearing, CTO at Node4, stresses that SysAdmins are even more important “for Managed Service Providers whose technologies are relied upon by many companies all at once. They often have extensive knowledge about a wide range of technologies as well as incredible problem-solving skills. It is these attributes, along with hard work and often long hours, that mean an MSP’s services continue to work with consistent reliability and no downtime, which are essential for providing the best service to customers.”

Despite the challenges thrown their way over the past couple of years – with COVID and remote working changing the way we work, alongside the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks – SysAdmins continue to go above and beyond to keep our systems running.

“Their job is getting harder every year,” explains Richard Orange, Vice President EMEA at Exabeam. “Challenges now facing SysAdmins include supporting a geographically diverse workforce, while contending with an ever-expanding attack surface and diminishing distinguishable corporate perimeter. And, as organisations become increasingly cloud-focused, SysAdmins are doing a huge amount of the heavy lifting when it comes to migration. Accelerated cloud adoption is also removing some of the previous security controls inherent in provisioning on-premise infrastructure, causing further complexities for our SysAdmins. Bandwidth, as is so often the case, is now the primary challenge for SysAdmins. We know that without them, any business would cease to operate effectively.”

Show your support

SysAdmin Day is dedicated to showing support and appreciation for their work, but such gratitude should not be limited to just one day. Implementing policies and technologies that will make a SysAdmin’s job easier in the long term will show that you appreciate their hard work.

As Paul Farrington, Chief Product Officer at Glasswall, suggests, “providing additional training and upgrading the tools they use on a daily basis are just two ways that businesses can show their appreciation for their SysAdmins. These actions will not only help the admins to be more productive and not get held up by tedious manual tasks – it will also help them learn more skills and provide increased opportunities for their career development.”

Rob Gilbert, Managing Director for Commercial and Logistics Business at Totalmobile, agrees that “creating a clear path for career progression through regular training sessions and opportunities to take on greater responsibilities, supported by fit-for-purpose and innovative technologies, will enable them to deliver maximum value.”

As one of the key responsibilities of a SysAdmin is to help protect against and prevent cyber attacks, Christopher Rogers, Technology Evangelist at Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, advocates that “one of the best ways we can help our SysAdmins in their day-to-day tasks is to provide them with all the necessary tools and disaster recovery solutions that allow them to tackle and overcome disasters quickly and with ease. Organisations looking to support their SysAdmins should ensure that they are spending and investing enough on resilient infrastructure – across backup, disaster recovery and cloud mobility. The process of protecting your data by creating an extra copy is one thing, but organisations need a disaster recovery plan that focuses on limiting downtime and restoring operations in minutes or seconds, not days or weeks.”

“The best thing an organisation can do to support its SysAdmins is to find the right programs to provide insight into workflows and efficiency while facilitating system response monitoring,” agrees Steve Cochran, CTO at ConnectWise. “This frees up SysAdmins to address other, more pressing issues so they are able to be more proactive and handle reactive situations with ease.”

To conclude, Node4’s Gregg Mearing encourages everyone to recognize this annual event and incorporate time for celebrations into your day: “if you rarely notice the work of a SysAdmin, it proves how good of a job they do! Take time this SysAdmin Day to celebrate the unsung heroes of your business.”

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Mike Gosling

IT Service Platforms Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems